In a profession where we are trained to fight death around any corner, any day, students need to not only understand how to handle death in a medical setting but also how to cope with the weight we bring upon ourselves in end-of-life situations. No matter our past experiences, no matter our clinical training or how academically prepared we think we may be, it can be traumatic to feel the burden of responsibility for the loss of a life.
As stressed medical students looking for an eventful destination to spend our spring break, my friend and I chose to take a trip to America’s Big Apple, New York City. On a sunny day in NYC, I remember enjoying our morning cups of coffee and walking into a subway station when, suddenly, an older man shouted at us, “Take your Corona and get out of my country!”
Unmotivated to study, I dedicated myself to researching the virus as well as its epidemiological, social and economical impact on our communities. Adjusting to life in quarantine was frustrating, and I felt like I was watching the world turn upside down. However, researching the pandemic felt much more relevant than trying to use all these anatomy apps to fill in gaps created by a lack of practical hands-on learning.
Upon meeting the new children I was babysitting, the little girl Elason immediately asked me if I brought my stethoscope. Her mom had told her that I was a medical student. In the eyes of Elason and Kaje, that made me a superhero. It didn’t matter that I was at the bottom of the food chain in the medical world.
In Nicaragua, where I was born and raised, we routinely stayed at home for dengue outbreaks, violence and hurricanes. I had experienced at least three lockdowns as a child, and now as an adult, I was experiencing another. Although the Nicaraguan lockdowns I experienced happened in the 1990s, the COVID-19 lockdown was still familiar.
I am calling for international solidarity and aid for Yemenis who are currently living in the worst conditions imaginable without clean water, food or shelter. Today in Yemen, there is war, an economic crisis, cholera outbreaks, the Chikungunya virus and COVID-19, all in the same country.
Sameera was an Iraqi refugee who had recently arrived from Tijuana, Mexico. She fled violence from what seemed like every corner of the globe, starting with Iraq, then to Yemen, Brazil, Mexico, and now to a small, bare and cold cell somewhere in southern California.
It feels preemptive to discuss emergence while sitting in the living room where I’ve spent 15 hours a day for the past month — bradycardic afternoons mirroring the day prior. Yet each day the sun emerges, and we along with it, venturing out onto balconies and porches. As medical students, we take our pro re nata walks and remember to cross the street so our paths don’t intersect those of our neighbors.
Shortness of breath is a frustrating experience. The feeling of not being able to get air into the deepest parts of your lungs can be scary. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 spreads across the globe, more and more people are experiencing shortness of breath — one of the symptoms of the virus.
But we should not need to view videos of Black individuals suffering or in pain in order to mobilize. Others, unrecorded and alone, die by the hands of our state. It is time for Americans to turn their gaze away from violent images of Black death and inwards to consider the invisible and not-so-invisible ways we uphold white supremacy every single day.
Back in late March, I was a medical student in D.C. studying for exams. Today, I am a 23-year-old living with my parents again. Despite being in school 5+ hours away, my bedroom in upstate New York has become my new classroom. Being at home has its perks: I get food from my mom again, and I can wear pajamas all day if I wanted to (not that I actually do that). However, there are many things that don’t feel right about being a medical student who has no connection to the medical world right now.
I packed up my new backpack, laptop, notebooks and pens early in the morning. The anxiety was palpable as my housemates and I dressed up to make our best impressions on our first day of medical school. This was unfamiliar territory. I had become so accustomed to my hectic routine as a college student by day and a nurse in the emergency department (ED) by night, but what would life be like as a “professional” student?